All eyes on Leafs’ Kessel as trade rumours swirl
What is brewing as a much bigger story in Toronto, however, is what happens with Kessel’s contract situation and if he remains with the team long term.
The five-year deal he signed when he originally landed with the Leafs in former GM Brian Burke’s infamous trade with the Boston Bruins is set to expire on July 1, 2014, meaning Kessel can sign an extension in less than five months.
It is also believed that while Leafs GM Dave Nonis isn’t offering his top sniper around the league, he is willing to listen to offers, rumours that will only increase should Toronto fall out of the playoff race before the trade deadline in early April.
Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, said Friday it was “too early” to begin the discussion about potentially re-signing in Toronto.
“The season is just 11 games old,” Arnott said. “I know Phil is only focusing on the next game. We’ll see what the off-season brings, but I know he enjoys playing for the Leafs and living in a hockey market.”
There’s a difficult decision to be made on both sides here, too.
Kessel must determine whether he wants to play for a Toronto team that may still be rebuilding another two seasons or more before it realistically can be considered a contender.